South Australian company IMP Technologies (IMPTEC) began developing the technology in 1997 as a solution to the mounting cost of comminution (reducing solid materials from one average size to a smaller average size) in the resources industry.
“Over the last 20 years, it became very apparent to all of us [at the company], that the cost of power of ultra-fine comminution was increasing dramatically as … the ore body grain size [was] becoming finer,” IMPTEC technical director Chris Kelsey told Quarry. “We felt this needed to be addressed.”
IMPTEC’s super-fine crushing technology pulverises material through a crushing process only, avoiding the energy-intensive grinding stage.
“Where this technology excels is in the ability to crush from, say, 10mm down to five microns in a single process, thus eliminating one or two stages of comminution,” Kelsey explained. “The technology will be used to create products in the five micron to 45 micron range more economically than is currently the case.”
Although the technology was inspired by the mining industry, Kelsey pointed out that super-fine crushing could potentially be applied to various quarried materials – including limestone, calcite, dolomite basalt, barite, feldspar, gypsum, bentonite and quartz – to make ultra-fine particles as well.
“These products are wide-ranging, from paint additives to drilling mud and cement additives and building industry products,” he said, adding that he had already received some inquiries from the quarrying industry.
More productive, cost-effective crushing
IMPTEC director John Doherty said the technology had important implications for reducing power consumption in the cement and mineral processing industries, and would additionally reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global operating costs.
“This technology will provide significant cost and production improvements by reducing capital costs of comminution, reducing energy costs by around 30 per cent, providing water savings, and reducing maintenance costs and machine downtime,” Doherty claimed.
The project received global industry support at the International Mineral Processing Congress in October last year and has also secured an additional $136,000 in state government funding through SA’s Mining and Petroleum Services Centre of Excellence.
The funding is being used to help commercialise the product, which has so far been trialled on IMPTEC’s premises as well as in a few small-scale commercial applications.
In August this year, the current SFC 350 model – the third official prototype of the technology – will commence a long-term industrial trial at Hallett Concrete’s cement works.
The SFC 350 model has the capacity to produce one to two tonnes per hour (tph) of ultra-fine material, depending on the size distribution of the product, but Kelsey said that a 25 tph unit would be operational by December 2016.
“Commercial trials will bring out all the glitches that have to be corrected and help determine wear rates, etc, but as we progress we expect to expand our equipment to produce upward of 100 tph,” he added.
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